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SMC adds 18 total physicians of many specialties

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Samaritan Medical Center has contracted with five neurosurgeons from a practice associated with Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, to help fill a void.

Samaritan spokeswoman Krista A. Kittle said neurosurgery has remained on the hospital’s physician recruitment priority list, especially throughout the past year since the practice of Dr. John Krawchenko and Dr. Michael P. Owen closed. Samaritan has identified two permanent neurosurgeon candidates and is in discussions with both to bring them here.

Dr. Owen is on the staff but filling in elsewhere, Ms. Kittle said.

Neurosurgeons who have entered an agreement with Samaritan are Drs. David A. Carter, Lawrence S. Chin, Walter A. Hall, Fassil B. Mesfin and Craig T. Montgomery. They will fill in holes in the on-call rotations when the hospital hires the permanent neurosurgeons. The two full-timers will be based in Watertown, but also will be employed by the same practice as the five other contracted neurosurgeons.

“We’re working diligently to rebuild the neurosurgery program,” Ms. Kittle said. “This really forced us to take a look at recruitment ... we have to be creative; neurosurgery is very unique in terms of recruiting.”

Rebuilding the program includes a whole team of people and new equipment for Samaritan’s Surgical Care Center. While details have yet to be worked out, Ms. Kittle said, money has been set aside for that purpose.

Part of the struggle, she said, is their scheduling once they arrive. Quality of physicians’ lives is important to consider, she said.

“What becomes an issue when you only recruit two or three or three neurosurgeons is on-call rotations,” Ms. Kittle said. “Our goal is to get to the 24/7 coverage.”

Samaritan also continues to recruit other specialists. And although the hospital has been most successful in finding physicians with local ties, searches for specialty physicians go statewide and nationwide, she said.

The hospital recently welcomed emergency medicine physicians Drs. Brian D. Roggie and Christopher S. Roman. Also hired were obstetrician-gynecologists Drs. Christopher M. Novak and Jonathan R. Oliva, both of whom are military physicians working in the Fort Drum ob/gyn clinic adjacent to the hospital.

Ms. Kittle said Dr. Kenya Cain, an ob/gyn, isn’t new to the north country, but what’s new is he’ll now see civilian patients.

“He was an active-duty ob/gyn who moved his family here,” she said. “They ended up falling in love with the area.”

Pediatrician Dr. Priyanka Kaul was recently welcomed, as were husband-and-wife family medicine physicians Drs. Neel and Svetlana Shah. Ms. Kittle said Dr. Svetlana Shah will practice in Watertown only once a week because she has a full-time job on Fort Drum. Dr. Neel Shah will be located somewhere in the Samaritan Health Network, Ms. Kittle said. Both Shahs will begin in early 2013 and help fill part of the primary care void in the north country, Ms. Kittle said.

Meanwhile, urologist Dr. Alejandro R. Rodriguez arrived earlier in the month, while urologist Dr. Pierre Mechali will arrive early next year.

Other new physicians include Dr. Deborah Norris, who will focus on breast surgery. She replaced Dr. Jan K. Turcotte, who retired earlier this year.

While it may be hard to attract one physician, Ms. Kittle said, Samaritan lucked out when Dr. Norris suggested the hospital take a look at plastic surgeon Dr. Guillermo Quetell.

“His work will complement the work of Dr. Norris,” Ms. Kittle said. “It was someone Dr. Norris knew, and it’s a nice complement.”

Dr. Quetell will remain active in a Syracuse-based practice, but will work in Watertown when needed, once space for him has been identified.

Dr. Michael F. Angel, an otolaryngologist and plastic surgeon, will join Samaritan Ear, Nose and Throat, and will work with the hospital on pursuing his plastic surgery interests.


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